A year ago today, March 16, 2020, this site launched the Culture of Takeout. The premise was a simple win-win: help save Charlottesville restaurants while brightening lives of seclusion with a restaurant meal at home. At the time, and for every day since, our restaurants have faced an existential threat from a once-in-a-lifetime pandemic. Will our food community survive?
One year later, we have our answer. For all its havoc, for all its devastation, for all its pain, this virus could not defeat the Charlottesville food community. Yes, we lost beloved institutions. Yes, our restaurants faced greater anguish than ever before. Tears. Heartbreak. But, no, COVID-19, you did not destroy us.
Why did the Charlottesville food community prevail? Among myriad reasons, surely the biggest is heart.
A common theme on this site over the years is the heart of the Charlottesville food community. It is a talented bunch. And driven. And passionate. But, to quote a 2017 article:
If you want to understand Charlottesville’s food community, you need to know its heart . . . No virtue stands out more.
In the Charlottesville food community, if one has a need others rush to fill it. While that has long been the case, we now know it remains true even as a pandemic threatens the community’s very existence. Though dangling by a thread themselves, restaurants still did everything they could to help their peers. They lifted them up, they celebrated them, and they lent whatever help they could. There are too many examples to mention, but one story from early in the pandemic captures it well.
It started when an anonymous philanthropist began purchasing $10K or $15K worth of $50 gift cards from area restaurants and giving them to deserving recipients like frontline workers and people in need. A brilliant win-win with a philosophy not unlike the Culture of Takeout, the campaign injected urgently needed cash flow into restaurants, while brightening lives.
Two restaurant owners, though, declined the gift certificate purchases. While the pandemic had devastated their businesses and while $15K would have gone a long way to help them weather the storm, they could not bring themselves to accept such a large cash outlay while others suffered more. “Thank you, we appreciate it,” they said. “But, while we are hurting, we are going to make it. We would rather this money go to a restaurant in greater peril.”
Culture of Takeout One Year Later
The virus is subsiding. Vaccinations grow by the day. Spring is almost here. And in sight is the light at the end of the long, dark tunnel.
The coronavirus has been a formidable foe. We are battered, bruised, and, in some ways, changed forever. And, we pour one out for casualties lost along the way. But, COVID-19, the Charlottesville food community has a message for you: we win.